I love the grand Spectorian splendor of this Ray Stevens arrangement for Joe South – “Concrete Jungle” – that was released January 25, 1964 on MGM:
According to PragueFrank, South had recorded this song plus “The Last One to Know” on October 20, 1963 – possibly in Atlanta.
South would go on to produce a version of “Concrete Jungle” for The Tams, who would release a 45 on ABC-Paramount in 1965. Meanwhile, Ray Stevens would arrange and produce a version for Bobby Allen Poe, who would release a 45 on Monument in 1966.
Going back to 1958, Joe South released a steady string of singles for a number of smaller, independent labels mainly – NRC, Ember, Fairlane, Allwood, MGM, Tollie, Apt, Columbia – before signing to Capitol, where he had his first big hit with 1968’s “Games People Play” (although, to be fair, 1958’s “The Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor” did go as high as #47).
Not only did South enjoy respect from his peers as a songwriter (inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1979), but he was also a session guitarist of note who backed Aretha Franklin (“Chain of Fools”), Bob Dylan (“Visions of Johanna”), and Tommy Roe (“Sheila”), among others.
Alaska Coldly Pushes Texas Aside
Joe South’s first 45 is a novelty tune that playfully laments Texas’s change in status as the nation’s largest state upon Alaska’s entry into the Union:
Session bassist extraordinaire, Carol Kaye, is certainly no stranger to the philosophical notion of “bass as bottom end.” And yet, it was an uncharacteristically flamboyant performance that led (ironically, perhaps) to unexpected commercial success. Songfacts has a great interview that reveals the comical back story behind Carol’s unusually baroque bass lines for Mel Torme’s 1969 version of “Games People Play”:
Songfacts: Did you ever come out of a session and you didn’t think much of it, and then one of the songs from that session became a big hit?
Carol: Oh yeah. A few times. Most of the time I could predict which take was going to be the hit. You just felt it. It just kind of came together. But there was one time when I overplayed on bass to try to wake up a drummer. The drummer was in on tour and he was sleeping. You could tell that. And it was a big band. He was slowing down in the parts and the part that I was playing was slow according to the tune. The tune required just a few notes on my part. So somebody in the band said, “Do something, Carol.” And so I played a lot of notes and it woke up the drummer. And I walked in the booth after the take, and I said, “Now we can do a take.” And they looked at me and laughed and said, “That was the take.” I said, “Oh, no, that’s a bass solo. All the way through that’ll never be a hit.” But it was the biggest hit that Mel Tormé ever had. It was a #1 hit. The bass part that I invented is a test now at schools around the world. It’s funny, the name of the record was “Games People Play.” And he’s just going, “La di da” and here’s all this bass and stuff coming in. I thought, That’ll never be a hit. And it was a big smash hit for him. So yeah, a lot of times you’re wrong:
“Games People Play” by Mel Torme featuring Carol Kaye on lead bass
Carol Kaye touched on the hilarious Mel Torme episode in her interview with Horizon VU Music Blog: “I went home thinking I failed the fine Mel Torme, musical genius and wonderful Jazz musician/composer/singer. Well, that turned out to be his biggest money-making record.”
Carol Kaye’s Lone 45?
A search of the 45Cat database with the keywords “Carol Kaye” only turned up 2 false hits. But wait – a comment by 45Cat contributor, Davie Gordon, tips us to a fascinating piece of trivia: 1976 UK single by Spiders Webb includes a B-side called “Reggae Bump” that I can only presume – based on the title and date of release – is an instrumental disco reggae take on the popular 70s dance step. According to Davie Gordon: “[Carol] ‘Kaye,’ the co-writer of “Reggae Bump,” is session bassist, CarolKaye, who was married to drummer, Spider Webb.”
For discos only
A previous blog piece featured Carol Kaye & the Hitmen’s Latin-flavored instrumental – “Baia” – that could easily have been a Top 40 hit if released at the time of its recording.